Strength Training: Pinch It Real Good!

A few weeks ago we finished a strength-focused climbing month, which means we added 2 hangboard sessions per week to our climbing schedule. We also changed up our hangboard routine from what we’ve done in the past (you can read about those here and here) and brought in a new, highly sophisticated piece of training equipment…. a small piece of 2×4 🙂

We were pretty happy with this new routine and thought we would share it.

Our Strength-Focused Schedule:

  • One lead climbing session per week: Working on leading harder grades and improving technique (footwork, fast clipping, on-sighting, etc.)
  • One bouldering session per week: Working on bouldering harder grades and focusing on maximum strength moves
  • One general conditioning session per week: Incorporating exercises to improve functional movement and increase core and upper-body strength
  • Two hangboard sessions per week: Maximum strength dead-hangs plus pull-ups

Hangboard Routine:

The modifications we made to our old hangboard routine were as follows:

  • Choose 6 or 7 finger/grip positions to train. This time around, we included three different pinch grips using a 2 x 4 (cut to a length of 5-inches)
  • For each finger grip / position, find the weight you need to add / remove in order to just hold tension for 6 seconds + 1 pull-up
  • For each finger grip / position, complete 3 sets of the “6-second hang + 1 pull-up”), resting for 90 seconds in between each set

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Strength training mono-pullup

We loved this new routine for two reasons:

  1. It was quick! We could finish the hangboard routine in less than 45 minutes (this was, of course, after a very good warm-up at the climbing gym).
  2. It incorporated movement (the pull-up) off of a finger grip position, which we feel is more beneficial to climbing.

Pinch it Real Good:

We also started using a 2×4, cut to a length of 5 inches, to work on improving our narrow, medium and wide pinch grip.

  • Start with your weakest grip (for us, it was the widest, 5-inch width of the block)
  • End with your strongest grip (for us, it was the narrow, 2-inch width of the block)
  • We used a sling around the block, attached to our weights. It seemed to work!

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Strength training pinch-grip

For these maximum-strength exercises, you need to find out what weight you need to add (via a weight vest) or remove (via a pulley-system) so that you can just complete one 6 second hang / hold followed by 1 pull-up. This might take a session or two to figure out exactly where you lie.

Make sure you record your weights and grip positions, so you can track your progress over the week, and know what weights to start on, when you return to the hangboard training months from now.

Happy Strength Training!

Training for Climbing: Gimme Strength!

Since Jonty’s knee injury (at the beginning of our September performance phase), we haven’t been able to climb together, as his leg is still splinted and he can’t walk (or climb or belay!). As a result, we hadn’t talked very much about what our winter training schedule together would look like! After a month or so of bouldering in the gym, I was ready to start training again, with a focus in mind.

Last week, a notification popped up in our calendar, telling us we were due to start the Strength phase for our winter training block. Perfect timing! The whole premise of this 17-week training plan is to think about your climbing goals and to tailor your training to give you the best shot at conquering your “goal routes”. Since climbing outside in the winter on the “Wet Coast” is not possible for those that live some distance from the crags (climbing on soaking wet rock is not that fun!), our training usually focuses more on improving our general skills (finger and core strength, power movement patterns, etc.).

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Jonty on the hangboard, large rungs

Normally, during this 4-week training block we focus on improving finger strength through exercises on the hangboard. We talked about that session here, if you’re interested in our set-up. We’ve had discussions over time about whether this is the best way to improve finger strength. The main issue we have with this style of training is that you’re hanging, statically, on small holds. But climbing is a dynamic process, and the forces generated through your fingers as you move off a hold are much different than if you’re just hanging on a hold.

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Jonty on the hangboard, medium rungs

So I thought I would try something different this time around! A few years ago, we bought the Gimme Kraft training book, which includes tonnes of climbing-specific training exercises, developed in their training studio in Germany. Virtually all the exercises use body weight only and all have a rating from “Easy/Beginner” to “Very Hard/Pro” levels. We worked through some of the exercises in this book a few years ago and Jonty suggested I might want to look at some of them again.

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Jonty on the hangboard, thin rungs

What I like about these exercises is that they are dynamic and require the strength of multiple muscle groups at the same time, which (I’m hoping!) will help me improve some of my weaknesses.

For this strength training round, I’ll be focusing on 3 general exercises, all done on the campus board. After a significant warm-up session on the auto-belay (climbing continuously for 20 – 30 minutes, warming up each of the finger groups like pinch, crimp, 2-finger, etc.), the finger-strength training can begin!

SQUARE DANCE

What to think about:

  • One set = 4 – 6 “square-dance rounds” without a break
  • Complete 4 – 6 sets, resting ~3 minutes in between a set
  • Body tension (stay close to the wall)
  • Contact strength (fingers latch to the rungs)

How to improve/make more challenging:

  • Move to smaller/thinner rungs
  • Use higher feet (if possible)
  • Use a steeper-angled wall (if possible)


ON THE EDGE

What to think about:

  • Hang 7 – 10 seconds on off-set holds, lifting one leg as high as possible; repeat with the other hand/leg combo.
  • Complete 12 sets of these hangs
  • Core tension, finger contact strength

How to improve/make more challenging:

  • Move to thinner rungs, if you can hold the tension for more than 10 seconds
  • Starting at 6 sets, working up to 12 sets
  • Starting with 4 fingers on the holds, working my way down to 3 fingers


CAMPUS LOCK-OFFS

What to think about:

  • One set = 4 – 6 “lock-off” rounds, without resting
  • Complete 4 – 6 sets, resting ~3 minutes in between
  • Keep the body tension throughout the move
  • Try to touch your body to the wall as you lock-off (hips through nose)

How to improve/make more challenging:

  • Use thinner holds
  • Use higher feet (if possible) to get a deeper lock-off
  • Use a steeper wall (if possible)


For the last 7 weeks, Jonty has not had the luxury of two functional legs, so he has been working on improving his upper-body strength and finger strength, namely in the way of pull-ups. Lots of pull-ups. He’s now up to >130 per session, and generally stops due to boredom not fatigue!! On the weekend, when we are both at the climbing gym together and he has access to the campus board, he will work on his finger strength by doing off-set pull-ups and two-finger pull-ups. Over the last 7 weeks, he has really improved! He can now do off-set pull-ups on the thinnest campus rung:


And he has been working toward two-finger pull-ups on the medium and thin campus rungs:


He makes both look pretty easy, but I can assure you, it’s not!!! 🙂

This routine might get modified over the next few weeks, but this is my general plan.

Happy Training!!